In the Matter of M.C., Alleged Abused/Neglected Child
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON FEBRUARY 12, 2018
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JOSEPH NEILES
J. JACKLEY Attorney General JOSEPH N. THRONSON Special
Assistant Attorney General Department of Social Services
Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for petitioner and appellee
State of South Dakota.
KADI Minnehaha County Public Advocate Sioux Falls, South
Dakota Attorneys for respondent and appellant K.C.
K.C. (father) appeals a dispositional order in a child abuse
and neglect proceeding that awarded M.J. (mother) custody of
M.C. (child), currently thirteen years old, with supervised
visitation rights for father. We summarily affirm in part,
reverse in part, and remand.
and Procedural History
Mother is thirty-six years old. Mother resided in Sioux Falls
during most of the proceedings, but she resided on the
reservation and temporarily stayed in other locations during
the case. At the time of disposition, mother had
five children. This case, however, concerns only child, as
the other children had different fathers. Father is a
forty-seven-year-old resident of Sioux Falls. He is not
Native American. The record is not clear on when his
relationship with mother began or ended. However, in 2010,
father began living with a girlfriend who had her own two
children. Father and his girlfriend eventually married.
Child was born in 2004, and his residence shifted back and
forth between mother's and father's homes. This
changed in 2007 when mother's brother physically abused
child and mother and father stopped cooperating on custody
matters. Father brought a paternity/custody action against
mother and was awarded custody with visitation rights granted
to mother. Mother exercised her visitation rights
infrequently as time went on. The relationship between father
and mother worsened during this time.
In the fall of 2011, mother requested an overnight visit with
child because child's grandmother was coming for a visit.
Father allowed the overnight visit and told mother that child
had gotten into trouble for an incident at school and that he
had "whooped child's ass" for his misbehavior.
Based upon prior incidents, mother suspected child would be
bruised and looked child over, finding bruises down his back
to his posterior. Although mother feared losing visitation
with child, she took him to school the next morning and
talked to child's teacher about the incident at school
and child's bruises. The teacher notified her superiors,
and after examining child's bruises, the school officials
reported the matter to law enforcement and the South Dakota
Department of Social Services (DSS).
The authorities observed marks on child's body, including
marks across his legs and a bruise on his back. Child told
them that father "whooped him" for his misbehavior
at school and imposed other discipline including making child
hold books out away from his body while keeping his arms
straight. Child was crying and upset during the conversation.
He worried that if father found out he had talked about the
incident he would get "whooped" again.
Child was taken into temporary custody and transported to a
local child protection/advocacy center for a forensic
interview and medical examination. Child repeated his remarks
about being "whooped" by father and further
mentioned being hit with a belt and father's fist. The
medical examination revealed injuries to child's upper
thighs, back, and buttocks. One of the bruises appeared to be
a "pattern bruise" caused by a belt buckle.
Based upon an investigation, including interviews with
father, the State filed an emergency petition on October 20,
2011, alleging abuse and neglect of child. A more detailed
petition was filed on November 8. Child remained in DSS
The adjudicatory hearing began on February 15, 2012, and
continued on March 13. Following the adjudicatory hearing,
the circuit court issued a memorandum decision finding child
abused and neglected as to both father and mother. The court
stated that there was "no doubt in [its] mind that . . .
child was physically abused" by father. As for mother,
the court determined child was "without proper care . .
. through no fault of [mother]." See SDCL